Commotion erupted at a Queens subway station in New York City on Friday as two NYPD officers pinned down and handcuffed a homeless woman. This event is the latest in a string of police overuse of force since more officers have been assigned to subway stations to fight fare evasion and “quality of life” crimes.
Other events activists have protested include officers arresting a woman for selling churros, officers punching teenagers in the face while breaking up a fight and officers drawing a gun on a man sitting in a crowded subway car who they suspected was armed but was not.
Narvin Singh posted a video of the latest altercation on Friday. The officers pin down the struggling woman and handcuff her as the person filming the video shouts: “That’s not right!” The city maintains that the officers did not arrest or charge the woman, but rather that they were trying to get her to a mental health facility.
Warning: The following video contains graphic language.
1/ Jamaica Center subway station in Queens. Cops on top of and handcuffing a homeless woman. Is this help?
— Narvin Singh Ⓥ (@NarvinASingh) November 22, 2019
A woman in the video who says she is a mental health professional assures bystanders the officers are “trying to get her help.” Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, the city’s public hospital and clinic program, also can be heard in the video, explaining to people that the officers are simply transporting the woman to a mental health facility.
The Mayor’s Office shared a statement from Katz on Twitter.
These videos are painful for anyone to watch — especially if you have a loved one with mental illness who has refused medical care.
We have a moral obligation to help people get the care they need. It’s not easy — but it’s the right thing to do. https://t.co/nZMdsTzE94
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 22, 2019
Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed the MTA to crack down on homelessness and panhandling on subways. A video from last week shows officers not allowing a man — who paid his fare — onto a train after he allegedly fell asleep on a subway bench while waiting for it.
Those against the NYPD’s crackdown are saying their targeting of homeless New Yorkers seeking shelter in subways and subway stations is criminalizing those who are already at a disadvantage. Shelly Nortz, the deputy executive director for policy at Coalition for the Homeless, issued a statement condemning the latest incident, saying the officers further escalated the mental health crisis with their use of force.
“This conduct is dehumanizing and traumatizing for a person who has obviously already endured too much trauma in her life,” Nortz said. “This is NOT how the police should be deployed to effect involuntary transport for psychiatric evaluation. If someone is experiencing psychiatric crisis, it should be treated as a health issue and the response must be led by medical professionals rather than police.”
On Friday night, Decolonize This Place, an advocacy group against police violence, organized a protest that drew hundreds. Fifty eight people were arrested, and some protesters dismembered a turnstile in a Bronx station.
Advocates against the NYPD are saying Cuomo’s crackdown is inciting a war against poor New Yorkers of color.